I have never been the sort of person to advertise my stutter. Throughout high school, only my close friends were aware that I had a stutter, and even then I rarely discussed my stutter. After attending the one-day conference in Boston, I met many members of the National Stuttering Association community who proudly advertised their stutter and their active involvement in the NSA. My stutter had always been something unspoken, and it had never occurred to me I could not only disclose my stutter but discuss it with pride. Attending the conference in July in Fort Lauderdale and seeing many teen members discuss their stutter in casual conversation or across their social media accounts helped me become more comfortable with advertising.
However, when I reached college, I began to wonder how much is too much advertising? When I would introduce myself to new people, I would, as expected, stutter on my name. In response, people would often ask if I had forgotten my name, make a subtle comment about how I had said my name, or downright mock me. This shocked me, as I had been fortunate enough in the past to avoid these sorts of comments. I struggled most, however, with how to respond- ignore, advertise, or go along with the comment? I felt uncomfortable advertising because I knew most people were not aware that I had a stutter and so their comment came more from ignorance than ill intent. I did not want to scare away a potential new friend or brand myself as ‘the stutterer.’ On the flip side, I wanted people to be aware of my stutter and I wanted them to be more understanding with other people who stuttered.
In the end, I ended up ignoring some comments while casually mentioning that I had a stutter to others. I am still not sure how to respond to these mocking comments. But I have become more comfortable with disclosing my stutter to people I barely know in casual conversation. In fact, I recently brought up the National Stuttering Association in an interview for an internship, discussing the unique perspective I bring as a member of the stuttering community and as a Latina.
I do not think I or anyone else can ever advertise their stutter too much. After all, stuttering is a part of who I am, and like other interests or experiences, I can share or advertise as much as I want.
Author Gabriela is currently a student at the University of Chicago majoring in Latin American and Iberian Languages and Global Studies. She has been stuttering for as long as she remembers but is very grateful to have discovered the NSA community. She loves being able to meet and interact with other people who stutter. Gabriela’s first conference was Fort Lauderdale, and she is excited for another (in-person) conference whenever it is safe! Outside of school, Gabriela is part of a dance group, on the board of the Multiethnic Student Society, involved in the Institute for Politics, and works downtown for a legal aid clinic.
This piece is part of an ongoing series, written by our NSA Teens.